You’ve read the books, you’ve watched the TV series, you’ve read the graphic novels. If you’re Frogdog, you’ve even developed a serious crush on Daenerys Targaryen for her high-fat, low-carb diet.
Now what? Board game, anyone?
As a self-contained package, the first edition had some glaring flaws, mainly the serious balance issues. The Storm of Swords expansion worked to mitigate this but didn’t fix it entirely. No matter, the entire print run still sold out in short order.
Despite my love of the game, I never got around to buying a copy at the time and when I finally wandered into a nerd shop, found it to be out of print. Balls. But Fantasy Flight have now saved me from the tardiness of my past self by releasing a second edition of the game. It, in theory, combines the best bits of both the original game and the expansion while removing some crappier elements.
The core of the game is a military struggle between the various noble houses to take the lion’s share of the kingdom’s stronghold. Each faction has a deck of characters with various abilities to assist in this. Battles tend to be decisive and short which makes the game one of maneuver and posturing. There’s also a ten turn limit which adds a sense of urgency and strict supply limits prevent any Risk-like steamroller attacks.
The box itself is beautiful. The art is vastly improved, particularly on the faction character cards, and the playing board is nicely detailed. From looking at the game credits, it looks like they picked the most talented artist from the last set and got him to do all of the cards this time around.
Some may miss the old wooden counters. They have been replaced by hard wearing plastic versions with a faux grain. There’s also a new unit in the siege towers (taken from the expansion). This does have a side-effect. It’s quite difficult to distinguish knights from siege towers at a distance. This is bad because when planning a sneak attack, it’s a tad counter-productive to have to ask your victim what the defending force consists of.
The most obvious complaint is that the old box had a storage tray for all the components, this is missing from the new version. With the amount of pieces involved, this is a major lapse, you have to bag the entire set or you will lose pieces.
Major Rules Changes
The major changes are to the universal special orders. The Star Orders have received something of a buff, combining the faction abilities from the expansion with the main game. The House cards have also seen some major adjustments, some of the more powerful cards have been downgraded. But they seem to have been replaced by new powerful cards. All in all, I believe the power level has evened out. Yay. The faction-specific special orders are thankfully also absent.
The other main change are the introduction of battle cards which can provide random strength increases to both sides of a combat. This does make those tight battles a little tense and can result in some upsets. This does make open combat a little more terrifying as even a large advantage might not be enough to offset really awful luck.
What does all that mean for the game? I’ve gotten quite a few games under my belt at this point and honestly, it’s a lot more placid than it’s predecessor. The increase to six players leads to a stable equilibrium forming which can result in calmer (read: more boring) games. The old five player game tended to be a lot bloodier and I feel that this is a flaw in the new edition. It’s an easy fix though, just discuss it amongst yourself and evict the least popular player from the game. It’ll set the right tone for what’s to come.
|If he cries, give him this card.|
Lannister Pie (everyone gets a slice) remains an issue. If you don’t assign your most devious player to the Lannisters, they will be taken apart. Generally, keep the experienced players in the centre and south and let the newbies fight it out in the North. Whatever you do, do not spread the inexperienced players out around the board. Clump them for safety and let them fight it out.
The path to victory still rests on the principle of a well-timed knife in the back but it feels as if it’s a lot harder to land a fatal blow. The stable equilibrium mentioned above means that any gain is likely to be limited and games often see little combat until the very last turns.
Can I recommend it? Yes, I can. It’s a solid, fun game and you will not regret owning it. Is it more balanced than its predecessor? Yes, it is. Is it as much fun? Sadly, no.
|P.S. Baratheon are still slightly broken. I’m totally okay with that. All hail Stannis, the one true King.|